Chaos in charrettes

Chaos is a part of any intense creative process. The charrette — an intense, creative event — often emulates this process.

Chaos is a part of any intense creative process. Most people have experienced this phenomenon while writing a term paper under a deadline in college, putting the finishing touches on a portfolio, or writing a song.

There are three phases that one goes through. The first phase is one of anticipation, excitement and creativity. This is often followed by a phase of self-doubt and chaos. People in the creative arts who are accustomed to this process realize that the third phase happens when one relaxes instead of reacting negatively to these feelings. Knowing that creative solutions can often emerge from the most stressful or chaotic situations allows the person to come out of the process with a better product.

The charrette — an intense, creative event — often emulates this process. In the first few days, the charrette is very exciting and lots of creative ideas emerge. But, sometimes in the middle of the charrette things can turn bleak, tensions can run high, and there will be no apparent solution in sight.

A seasoned charrette veteran recognizes this as a natural part of the creative process and the team sees this chaos as an opportunity rather than as a problem. By continuing to work through the design and logistical options without “freaking out”, the preferred plan often emerges — sometimes in unexpected ways.

For example, a team can be deadlocked on a plan until someone new — someone outside of the team, perhaps a local architect or citizen — is brought in that looks at the plan with fresh eyes and suggests a small change that allows the rest of the pieces to fit together.

The charrette manager can save quite a bit of grief and hand wringing by explaining this process — including the chaotic part — to the client and team before the beginning of the charrette so that, if and when the chaos happens, they move through it gracefully, optimizing the creative moment.


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